I wonder if almost every teacher was an A+ student as a child. Or if the majority of folks who become teachers do so because school came easy to them; learning, following instructions, the entire process. Or if, at a young age, they internalized the precedency of conforming to institutional structure. And when they finally got the opportunity to stand at the front of their own classroom, I wonder if regurgitating all of what they had learned to regurgitate was even a conscious decision. I wonder how these questions influence the decisions I make in my professional life as an adult. After all, I am a teacher, too.
It’s almost intimidating for teachers to really think about how many things students are taught inside of schools. Deep consideration of this idea almost trivializes the already trivial curriculum students must be taught. But the most terrifying part is the legacies of pedagogy that most teachers carry with them, almost unconsciously. The legacy of pedagogy, which is quite literally the things handed down by our predecessors in regards to the methods and practices of teaching, becomes dangerous when subconsciously assumed. Nobody needs to re-invent the pedagogical wheel, but when teachers re-create structures and teach in the way they were taught, we are all in trouble. Within education, this legacy pedagogy baggage is where the roots of racism, discrimination and injustice lay.
Diversifying learning content is important. Altering teacher credentialing opens doors to a varied population that may take education in a creative and contrasting direction. Re-prioritizing the values within public schooling would cede some inequities. While all great, these and many more actions will do little to challenge the inherently oppressive positions that legacy pedagogy baggage takes. The culture of teaching runs deep, man. And when not checked, it subliminally teaches youth some nasty, vile and abhorrent lessons.
For the most part, legacy pedagogy baggage regenerates the assumption that assimilation begets academic excellence. Divergent thinkers typically fair poorly in schools. The compression of individuality and creativity begins in kindergarten. I mean, if public schools had a slogan, it would read “think realistic…and like everyone else”. Due to this baggage that teachers carry, brilliance is seen in limited forms.
Thankfully, we’ve somewhat broken away from thinking that only the “smart” kids sit at the front of the class. But we haven’t yet untangled ourselves from the false reality of validating the most harming proximity marker. Proximity to whiteness. The most damning assault this legacy pedagogy baggage has ever carried is the teachings that proximity to whiteness ought to be something to aspire to. It’s taught in subtle ways, primarily because teachers teach the way they were taught. Because we look at all acts and answers through a particular gaze, we accept and deny a myriad of things inside of our classrooms. If we casually teach the way we were taught, we miss all the different people in front of us, because we are only looking for the “students”.
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